In a move that coincides with the beginning of Black History Month, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus introduced 14 bills addressing reparations for the harms of slavery and historical racism, though cash payments are not among the proposals.
Last year’s San Francisco Reparations Advisory Committee was remembered for controversial headlines over its recommendation of $5 million lump-sum payments to African-American descendants of slaves. And while that was just one of many of their proposals, it all became a moot point when Mayor London Breed’s budget cuts dissolved the Office of Reparations. (Local reparations legislation will still likely occur, but seems indefinitely back-burnered.)
There was also a much larger, statewide California Reparations Task Force that offered its own reparations recommendations last year to address the harms of slavery and historical institutional racism. Again, those were just recommendations, the task force just gave proposals from which lawmakers could create proposed legislation.
That legislation has arrived, or rather, 14 separate pieces of legislation have arrived. KGO reports on the first reparations laws now proposed in California, and in fact, these are the first reparations laws proposed in the nation. Though significantly, cash payments to descendants of slaves are not among the proposals.
"Reparations is not charity, it's not a handout. It's not a gift,” state Senator Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles) told KGO. “It is what was promised and what is owed. It's something that is 160 years overdue to African Americans who built this country. We wouldn't be the great nation that we are today if it wasn't for 400 years of free labor."
Several of the measures are intended to increase Black homeownership. Some are criminal justice measures, like restricting solitary confinement. One of the bills offers protections for “natural and protective” hairstyles, and of course, another of the bills would offer a formal apology.
And as Politico reports, one measure does offer something of tangible value, and potentially even money. Bradford has proposed a bill to address “property takings,” according to that outlet. Bradford’s office says the bill would “Restore property taken during raced-based uses of eminent domain to its original owners or provide another effective remedy where appropriate, such as restitution or compensation.”
While California was not technically a slave state, there was some slavery of African Americans in California. Slave owners from other states were free to bring their slaves into California, which many did during the Gold Rush era. And many Black Californians were denied the right to buy or retain property, and others lost property in the later 20th Century through cities' and the state's use of eminent domain.
Image: SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 01: An aerial view of the California State Capitol on February 01, 2023 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Justin Sullivan) Getty Images